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All required procedures followed in Group Medical Insurance Scheme: JK Govt

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Srinagar, Oct 6: Dispelling the rhetorical misgivings being created about the Group Medical Health Insurance Scheme rolled out by J&K Government recently, the State Government Saturday clairified that the scheme has been implemented after following all the required procedures in a fair and most transparent manner.
“The entire bidding process has been done in a competitive, clean and transparent manner in line with the Financial Rules and Regulations as well as CVC (Chief Vigilance Commissioner) guidelines,” said an official spokesman.
The spokesman said that the bidding process was monitored by a team of senior-most officers, well versed with the Financial Rules and Regulations, and was conducted through strict technical and financial evaluation.
“In the first round of bidding only one bid was submitted by a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) and as the first round concluded with poor response it had to be terminated,” he said and added that thereafter, a pre-bid conference was organized, where both private and PSU companies participated and the tender was reissued with minor changes in technical parameters on their suggestion.
The spokesman said that all PSUs as well as top private insurance companies were contacted to participate in the bidding process as a result of which in the second round, 9 companies including Private and Public Sector Undertakings submitted their bids, out of which 5 qualified on technical evaluation criteria.
The financial bid of 5 qualified companies were opened and it emerged that Reliance General Insurance Company with a quoted premium of Rs 8776.84 was at L1, National Insurance Company Ltd with quoted premium of Rs 11918.00 at L2, ICICI Lombard with quoted premium of Rs 17691.74 at L3, Bajaj Allianz with quoted premium of Rs 23476.10 at L4 and United India Assurance Company with quoted premium of Rs 27225.00 at L5.
The spokesman said that the only PSU which participated in the first round and the bid of which was not opened due to poor response came second in the second round with a substantially higher premium quoted than L1. “Further, the gap between L1 and other bidders was substantial and, therefore, there was no question of lack of competition,” he said.
Enumerating further, the spokesman said it is important to point out that more than four years ago when ICICI Lombard was awarded the contract, the premium was Rs 6196 per annum. “However, coverage was much less than this time as the scheme was previously restricted to Gazetted employees only,” he said and added that although the earlier policy also covered employee plus 5 members of his family, the coverage was only for a sum up to Rs 5 lakh and between the age group of 3 months to 80 years.
He said the fresh scheme approved by the State Government for all employees, covers the employee plus 5 members of the family including new born babies and aged parents within the age group of zero to 100 years and that too for a coverage of Rs 6lakh with a premium of Rs 8877 per annum.
The spokesman said that on any criteria of coverage, number of hospitals where cashless service will be provided (more than 4700 hospitals across the country) and the prevalent market rates, the premium quoted by the successful bidder is extremely competitive. “It is also known that at the premium of Rs6196 five years back the then Company suffered losses, as the total amount paid out by them for treatment was higher than the premium collected,” he said and added that ICICI Lombard with whom the State Government had its last contract has quoted Rs17691.74 premium per annum under the fresh scheme.
The spokesman said only 3.5 lakh regular employees of the Government are expected to be covered under the scheme while for pensioners, All India Service Officers, Daily Wagers/Casual Labourers and those government employees who are already covered under a Health Insurance Scheme on their own, it will be optional. He said the expected outgo of the premium would be approximately Rs 310 crore per annum.
The spokesman said that the Group Medical Insurance Scheme with a very reasonable premium alongwith the coverage it provides, number of hospitals including all top hospitals of the country being empanelled, shall be extremely beneficial for the employees and the misleading information being spread is only aimed at creating doubts in the minds of the people.


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Budgam: NC worker of 4 decades stays away from polls

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Apr 18: Outside a two-storey Government Girls Higher Secondary High School in Ichigam village of Budgam, a man donning a chequered pheran loudly quipped at every person entering the polling booth to cast his or her vote on Thursday.

He argued with them over the performance of their elected leaders in the past as agents of political parties tried hard to convince him to cast his vote or stay away from others who wanted to.

Ghulam Hassan, in his 60s, has been an avid supporter of National Conference (NC) at Ichigam for the last 40 years.   

 

Having worked hard over the years to lure voters for NC, Hassan, Thursday, was one among those who sidelined from the party and preferred not to vote.

He said the previous regimes failed to develop his area due to which he had decided to boycott and also not to “befool” people in this Lok Sabha election.

“It was the only option available with me. I have been supporting the party (NC) ever since I became eligible to caste vote. But it didn’t benefit me nor people of my area,” he said.

Hassan, who as per locals, would often engage himself in heated arguments with political rivals during elections, was dejected over the state of roads and growing unemployment in his village.

“I have two sons, who are sitting idle at home. Many students here have completed their higher studies and haven’t got a job. These politicians appear only during elections and forget their promises once they are elected,” he said.

Hassan said the idea of boycotting the election was way better than living with a hope of some relief from the politicians.

“Under these circumstances, it is better that you vote for a candidate who is trustworthy. But we are short of such candidates,” he said.

When agents attempted “tricking” him by saying his vote would secure Article 370 and 35-A, he replied, “Many among you have voted and let us see how your vote will benefit Kashmir,” he said.

Few metres away in another polling booth in Ichigam, Ghulam Muhammad Dar voiced similar concerns but said he voted after trusting the candidate for one last time.

“I have been casting my vote for the last 50 years and have seen how these politicians befool people. But this is going to be my last vote if the candidate didn’t work for the development and safeguarding special position of Kashmir,” he said.

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Chrar-e-Sharief, Chadoora: Boycott, stone-pelting and ‘saviours of special status’

Nisar Dharma

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Charar-e-Sharief (Budgam), Apr 18: The 15 km serpentine up-hill road from Chadoora to Chrar-e-Sharief shrine is surrounded by a breathtaking terrain. Several vantage points on this route offer a beautiful view of the karewas and blooming orchards.

The road is usually busy with Taveras and Sumos carrying passengers to and fro. However, on Thursday when Srinagar Parliamentary Constituency went to polls, the route was dead still.

The Chadoora and Charar-i-Sharief belt in district Budgam, one of the three central Kashmir districts forming the Constituency, witnessed voting in dribs and drabs as the majority heeded the Hurriyat’s boycott call.

 

As most youth chose to stay away from voting (if not the polling stations), a handful of elderly were seen discreetly entering the booths to vote for their favourite party.

In polling booth 29 A, housed in the Handicrafts building at a stone’s throw from the Charar-e-Sharief shrine, a large rectangular wooden hut had the EVMs set on one end and the officials settled on another.

Armed personnel of both paramilitary and J&K police were scattered within and outside the booth. A few of them jumpy and surveying everyone and everything entering the booth. Many at ease, lying on the dusty mat made out of twisted coconut tree fiber.

An elderly female, probably in her 80s, was walked in by her grandson.

The official at the polling booth stood up to guide her how to cast the vote: “Mouji , wechiv yem che nishaan alag alag partiyan hind, yath nishanass tuhe vote chu travun, teth seet yus batun chu su dabaeviv (Mother, these are the symbols of various parties, whatever symbol you want to vote for, just press the button next to it).”

The lady, however, was crystal clear what button she needed to press.

“Albaen haez (the plough),” she said.

At 10:20 am, 78 votes out of 928 had been polled at the station.

Roughly 200 metres away from this booth, a teenager came running towards his fellows shouting “Rakshak aai (Rakshak is approaching).”

Mahindra Rakshak is an armored military light utility vehicle, used by police in Kashmir to counter street protests.

The teen shouting was at the rear end of a group of youth who were pelting stones at another polling booth set in the Boys Higher Secondary School, Gulshanabad.

The youth had blocked the road by dragging some iron electricity poles right in the middle of the approach road to the shrine.

As the Rakshak approached, the men in uniform, wielding batons and pump action guns, ran towards the bunch.

At least two youth couldn’t flee the approaching cops. They got a beating of their lives and were bundled in the Rakshak.

By 10:30 am, in four polling stations of Charar-i-Sharief, 201 votes had been cast out of a total 3206 votes, a mere 6 percent turnout.

As the stone pelting intensified in the area, the drib and drab turnout dwindled further.

At Chadoora, things did not seem as tense as they were in Charar. But here again, it was the elderly who were keen to cast their votes.

Wearing a white skull cap and a pheran (long cloak usually wore in winters), Maqbool Dar, in his late 40s, said he voted to keep the “communal forces at bay”.

“We are with Hurriyat and the boycott, but the situation in Kashmir right now demands that we vote to protect our special status,” he said.

Dar said if the people did not vote, the Central government run by BJP “will be successful” in abrogating Article 35-A and 370.

“When our representative would be in Parliament, he can take up the issue strongly,” Dar said.

Asked how he claimed so when in the past the “representatives” had hardly done anything for the Kashmir issue, Dar said: “Then the situation wasn’t this bad. These days our existence is under threat.”

Like Dar, Ghulam Mohammad Shah (90), said he voted “for NC to keep BJP out.”

“(Late) Mufti Sayeed sowed thorns on the streets of Kashmir allying with BJP. By voting against them, we want to pull out those thorns,” the elderly said. 

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Why vote? ‘To keep BJP at bay’

Syed Nashir Ali Gillani

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Srinagar, Apr 18: Amid poll boycott and low turnout for Srinagar Parliamentary seat, most electorate across Srinagar city Thursday said they cast their votes to “keep BJP at bay and to safeguard Article 35-A and 370.”

Ever since BJP came to power, it has been maintaining that the party would abrogate the Article 35-A and 370 granting special status to the state.

In its recently released manifesto, it asserted that the party would abrogate the Articles by 2020.

 

As such, majority of voters in Srinagar said they were exercising their right to “save Kashmir” and “stop” the saffron-party’s “growing foot-hold” in the valley. 

“Nobody wants BJP in Kashmir. I have voted so that I don’t again get to see BJP at the helm. Ever since Modi came to power in 2014, we have been suffering miserably,” said a voter, Mohammad Afzal at Khanyar polling station, which was  stationed at government higher secondary school, Khanyar.

At a polling booth stationed at government girls’ higher secondary school, in Saida Kadal here, a youth Bilal Ahmad, a marketing professional in his 30s, said he was voting for the first time.

“The youth has suffered the most because of Kashmir issue. It should be resolved, once for all, then only development is possible,” he said, adding that erosion of Article 35-A and 370 will not be acceptable to   people.

At the same polling station, a polling agent, Ghulam Mohammad (name changed) said that majority of voters have come to vote because of the “imprudent” policies of  the BJP with regard to Jammu and Kashmir.

At Meerbehri polling station near Mamta hotel, close to Dalgate, people were furious over the polling station being set up in a tin shed.

They said that polling booth could have been stationed at a local school.

 “We have been casting votes since decades but our basic problems continue to remain unaddressed. Those elected so far have not lived to our expectations,” said a voter, Mohammad Latief.

“We have been living in the interiors of Dal Lake. We don’t have roads, have to travel by foot. I am voting with the intent that issues being faced by us would be addressed. Moreover, I believe my vote will safeguard our special status,” Latief added.

Terming unity as a greatest strength, a voter, Bashir Ahmad at the Batamaloo polling booth, stationed in a local government school claimed that “politicians have been dividing people just for their interests.”

“We have to unite for securing our future. Our future is at stake as people have been talking of eroding Article 35-A and 370,” he added.

At one polling station in Sri Pratap College, a voter, Mubashir Mir, in his 30s, said “nothing can happen to the Article 35-A and 370”.

“They are the basis of accession and will remain intact. It is not easy to erode them,” he said.

An official of Doordarshan Kendra, Srinagar, after casting his vote at government girls’ higher secondary school, Rajbagh said he came on his own will.

“Yes I voted, my family will also vote. For 20 years, I have been working in Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar on temporary basis. So far, I have not been regularised. I hope that one who goes to the parliament, will ensure my regularisation,” he said.

“We don’t want to see BJP in Kashmir, it is after our identity. We can’t afford to lose our special status, the basis of our existence,” he added.

At Chanapora polling station, a retired government official, Mohammad Ashraf Allaqband, who has been voting for the last 35 years said: “PDP and BJP did nothing for people. We have firm belief that Farooq Sahib only be able to defend our special status, raise our issues in the parliament and seek their redressal,” he said.

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